MS Word as scientific authority

1 minute read

In case you haven't been following the "pluton" controversy, here's a pointer to Nature News on the topic. A pluton is a kind of underground igneous rock formation, but the IAU has proposed to use the term itself to describe Kuiper Belt objects. I had to laugh at this:

Owen Gingerich, an astronomer at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and chair of the IAU committee that created the definition, says that they were aware of its usage amongst geologists, but unaware of its importance to the field. "Since the term is not in the MS Word or the WordPerfect spell checkers, we thought it was not that common," Gingerich wrote in an e-mail to [email protected] The geologic definition of the word does appear in common dictionaries, including the Oxford English.

OK, this suggests an obvious game. I don't type in Word, so my user dictionary is blank, and the built-in dictionary is ready for action. A quick check shows "erectus," "Australopithecus," "Neanderthal," and "sapiens," are in, but none of the rest of hominid taxonomy makes the cut. Bill Gates trying to tell us something?

Oh, and it is immensely satisfying to type "hominid" in the clear but immediately get the red underline for "hominin!"

Maybe we can get the astronomers to take that one off our hands...